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Welsh Castles

Welsh Edwardian Castles

The remarkable fortifications erected in Wales in the late 13th century by King Edward I or by lords with his permission were all built as part of Edward’s invasion of the country. He wanted to conquer and suppress the Welsh people, so that’s why these edifices of war were built.

These vast constructions were part of the exclusive program by the English King to make short shrift of the Welsh in a fierce campaign to impose his dominion over them and to absorb Wales into the English state.

Why? After the Romans departed from Wales, the kings and Princes of Gwynedd took over. They battled heatedly and sometimes ruled all of Wales. Dynasties rose and fell, and they caused problems along the border with England.

Edward saw through this expensive 53-year campaign. He didn’t try to conquer Scotland, likely because he lacked funds. Besides, during the half a century following the end of the program, some of Edward’s castles needed repairing, and there wasn't the money to fund it.

The Castle-Building Program

The castle-building program was gigantic for the time, pretty much like expensive boondoggles today – a waste of both time and money, but continued due to extraneous policy or political motivations. Nevertheless, it involved men, materials, and money from the King’s purse on an unprecedented scale.

Ten castles were to be built during the program:

1.    Aberystwyth
2.    Beaumaris on the Isle of Anglesey
3.    Builth
4.    Caernarvon
5.    Conwy
6.    Flint
7.    Harlech
8.    Hope
9.    Rhuddlan
10.    Ruthin

Native Welsh Castles

Previous to that, Welsh rulers built the following castles:

1.    Deganwy Castle, Conwy
2.    St Cwyfan’s Church, Anglesey
3.    The Royal Palace of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn at Rhuddlan
4.    Dinas Emrys, Beddgelert
5.    Ewloe Castle, Flintshire
6.    Dolbadarn Castle, Llanberis
7.    Criccieth Castle
8.    Castell y Bere
9.    Dolwyddelan Castle, Conwy

English Lordship Castles

However, during the invasion of Wales, lordship castles were also built at:

1.    Chirk
2.    Denbigh
3.    Hawarden
4.    Holt

The invaders also captured the Welsh Castell y Bere, Criccieth, and Dolwyddelan castles.

The history of these castles is scrutinized in this section of this website.

The purpose of the castles built by King Edward I was to 'scare the pants' off the Welsh and be a permanent reminder of who was the master of their land.

However, getting English craftsmen and artisans over to the rough hilly country of Wales wasn’t cheap. Some had to be conscripted or drafted for the jobs. So, absenteeism wasn’t rare, and guards were paid quite a bit to prevent absconding. But as always, bonuses were paid for speedy work, in kind rather than money. Absentees were not paid a penny while away.

Welsh Castles List

Gilbert de Clare, a Norman Lord, built an earthwork enclosure castle on a hill. But Edward I built another.

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